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John's Journal... Entry 178, Day 1


Decoys and Blinds

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more than 20 years Billy Blakely of Troy, Tennessee, has guided duck hunters on Reelfoot Lake in Tiptonville, Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is 18,765 acres of water that was formed by a series of earthquakes that started in December of 1811 and ended in February of 1812. At that time the Mississippi River flowed backwards and spilled over into the hole left by the earthquakes, creating Reelfoot Lake. Loaded with shallow-water flats, cypress swamps and plenty of shallow-water areas, this lake houses an ideal duck habitat. And to make this haven for duck hunters even better, one state and two federal waterfowl refugees are located around the lake. Another reason Reelfoot Lake has the most-dependable duck hunting of any area I know in the United States is due to the yo-yo effect this area experiences during waterfowl season.

"When the weather is cold, the ducks migrate from the North to Reelfoot," Blakely explains. "When the weather turns hot, the ducks that travel north from Mississippi and Louisiana also stop here. Reelfoot Lake seems to be the midpoint of the two extremes of weather during waterfowl season." This week we'll learn how Blakely and the other guides at Blue Bank Resort consistently take ducks at this time of the year.

Question: How many decoys do you put out?
Blakely: I generally have about 160 decoys around my blind. I believe that the more decoys you put out, the better your odds are for pulling in high-flying flocks of ducks. Reelfoot is located about three miles from the Mississippi River. Ducks moving up and down this flyway can spot a big flock of decoys much easier than they can a small group of decoys. We also have three major waterfowl refugees here: Long Point on the north end of the lake, the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge on the west side of the lake and Lake Isom. These refuges can hold 6,000 to 7,000 ducks during the migratory season.

Question: What do you do to enhance your decoy spread?
Blakely: I use three Robo Ducks, which are electronic decoys with rotating wings. I use two Mallard Machines, which consist of underwater propellers that create wakes on the surface and jerk the strings of four of the decoys. I also put out pulsating decoys, which are feeding ducks with pumps that produce ripples on the water. Additionally, I use a generator in my blind that's attached to a big pump that stirs up the water, making it look like feeding ducks have muddied the water around my decoys. This pump also keeps the water around my decoys from freezing during cold weather. Too, a new decoy that I'm using this year is called the Filler Killer. These decoys are the best new decoys I've seen on the market for several reasons.

The Filler Killers.

* are inexpensive, costing about $8 a dozen;
* move a lot - even in the slightest breeze - because they're extremely lightweight;
* add a new look to your decoy spread. When ducks fly overhead and look at a flock of live ducks, what they see most often are large patches of black, which are actually two or three ducks staggered together. With these black Filler Killer decoys, your spread will look more realistic than if you use only natural-looking ducks. I believe that I've increased the number of ducks that I call in by 40% using these new decoys. For more information on these decoys, you can go to www.agsouthco.com or call (800) 659-7303.

Question: What kind of blind do you use?
Blakely: The bottom half of my blind is steel and floats like a barge. The top half of my blind is built of wood and has a rain top covering it. The blind is 24-feet long and 8-feet wide and has 10 shooting positions for hunters. I also have a gas cook stove and a heater in it. So, not only can you stay warm if the weather's cold and dry or raining, you can cook lunch too.

Question: How do you get ownership of a blind on Reelfoot Lake?
Blakely: In the early days, many hunters owned their own blinds and passed them down from generation to generation. Today, the individuals who own blinds own those same original blinds. However, when the person who owns the blind dies, the ownership of that blind reverts to the state and is put into a drawing every year. Then the state holds a lottery prior to duck season for the drawing of those blinds. You can hunt from a boat blind on Reelfoot, but your boat blind must be 200 yards away from any registered blind.

Question: What ducks do hunters take most often from your blind?
Blakely: I would say 70% of the ducks we take are mallards. Probably 20% are gadwalls, and then we get a wide variety of other ducks.

For more information on hunting at Reelfoot Lake, call the Blue Bank Resort at (731) 253-6878, visit www.bluebankresort.com, or write to Blue Bank at Route 1 Box 970, Tiptonville, TN 38079.



Check back each day this week for more about YO-YO DUCKS ...

Day 1 - Decoys and Blinds
Day 2 - Calls, Shells and Spreads
Day 3 - Basic Duck-Hunting Tips
Day 4 - Best Days of Duck Hunting
Day 5 - Open-Water Hunts

John's Journal